By Kate Williams, member, Friends of the Library Committee
The 2018 Friends of the Library annual general meeting, presided over by the Chair, Ann Vroom, and held in McGill’s historic Birks building, offered a brief summary of the year’s activities, a succinct treasurer’s report and a slate of committee members for 2018. The high point of the meeting came with the presentation of the 2018 Friend of the Year award, bestowed posthumously on an exceptional couple, Professor Blema Steinberg and her husband, Arnold Steinberg CM OQ, whose passionate attachment to learning and to McGill were an inspiration to all.
Preceded by Ann Vroom’s warm introduction, the tributes by Dean of Arts Antonia Maioni, and then by Colleen Cook, Trenholme Dean of Libraries, elicited an enthusiastic reaction from the more than 70 people in attendance. On hand to hear the tributes were daughters Donna and Margot Steinberg, who had come from New York for the occasion.
Described by Dean Maioni as “an outstanding academic and author, renowned in particular for her research and application of psychological theory in analyzing the behaviour of world leaders,” Professor Emerita Blema Steinberg was a double graduate of McGill and a member of the Political Science Department for over 40 years. In addition to her remarkable scholarship, which was matched by her teaching ability and her strong philanthropic spirit, Professor Steinberg also won praise from Dean Maioni for her disarming wit and thoughtful mentorship of students and colleagues “at a time when very few women held either PhDs or tenured positions in universities.”
Leadership and mentorship were equally celebrated in a glowing tribute to Arnold Steinberg, chancellor of McGill, alumnus, philanthropist and lifelong learner. Remarking on his ability to navigate what she wryly called “bureaucratic waters,” Dean Colleen Cook recalled him as a visionary and trusted advisor, a staunch supporter of McGill’s Visual Arts Collection, and a champion whose advocacy meant so much to her and her colleagues. His clearly-expressed view that a world-class university must have a world-class library such as the one reflected in Fiat Lux , the reimagined Library of the Future project, has been a precious source of encouragement to Dean Cook.
From the accolades voiced by the speakers at the annual general meeting, it is evidently difficult to summarize what this year’s Friend of the Library award recipients have done for McGill. For example, through the Blema & Arnold Family Foundation, the couple supported such noteworthy projects as the MNI Bilingual Brain initiative, the Ludmer Centre, the Global Health Fellowships, the Clinical and Surgical Education fund, Childhood Development (Medicine), and the groundbreaking Steinberg Centre for Simulation and Interactive Learning.
Presenting the 2018 Friend of the Library distinguished award to the Steinbergs’ daughters Donna and Margot, Principal Suzanne Fortier concluded that their parents’ legacy in “governance, support, teaching, innovation, volunteering, and generosity, continues to permeate the Library and the University.” As the citation so succinctly and forcefully put it:
2018 Friends of the Year
Presented Posthumously to
Arnold Steinberg CM OQ and Professor Emerita Blema Steinberg
In recognition of their inspiring commitment and outstanding contributions to
McGill University and the McGill Library
December 10, 2018
In response, Margot Steinberg, with her sister at her side, painted a lively and humorous picture of the intense McGill-centred conversations that occurred every evening around her parents’ dinner table and thanked the Library and the University for the posthumous honour.
Following the meeting and award ceremony, members and colleagues of the Friends of the Library adjourned to the Birks Reading Room where refreshments were served amid a remarkable display of treasured items from the McGill Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections, Archives, Osler and the Visual Arts collections.